iOS 18 confirmed: big upgrades are coming to Mail, Messages, Photos and more

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple has officially announced iOS 18, the next version of its iPhone operating system, at WWDC 2024 (check out our WWDC 2024 live blog for a rundown of the key reveals).

The huge software update will bring significant upgrades to core iPhone apps including Mail, Messages, Photos and Wallet later this year, with many of these upgrades coming as a result of Apple's commitment to "on-device intelligence". 

Mail, for instance, will soon be capable of categorizing your emails and providing easy-to-read digests, while the Photos app is being unified into a single view comprising a photo grid and a dates grid. You'll be able to filter photos by themes like screenshots and groups, without having to organise content into albums. 

In the Messages app, iOS 18 will let you react to messages using any emoji, and you'll be able to schedule messages to send at a convenient time in the future. Apple is also adding new text formatting, so you'll be able to underline, strikethrough and bold your messages, as well as add new text formatting, like ripple effects.

The Messages app will soon support the RCS standard, too, which should facilitate a richer messaging experience when you're communicating with someone who doesn't own an Apple device. Apple is also expanding the satellite capabilities of compatible iPhones to let you send messages via satellite when cellular and Wi-Fi connections aren’t available.

For the first time, iOS 18 will also grant users the ability to rearrange app icons and widgets. You'll be able to position apps at the bottom or side of the screen, freeing up space for the wallpaper behind them. You'll also be able to trigger a new dark mode for app icons in iOS 18, as well as add color tints.


iOS 18 will bring improved customization options to the Control Center (Image credit: Apple)

Control Center is also being upgraded in iOS 18. You'll soon be able to separate the Control Center into distinct function groups, like Media and Home, resize Control Center widgets, and edit which Control Center widgets appear on the Lock Screen.

Wallet, meanwhile, is being upgraded with a new 'tap to cash' feature, which should help make paying friends easier, while iOS 18 will also introduce optional Face ID authentication for all iPhone apps – not just Notes and banking apps.


iOS 18 adds a new 'tap to cash' feature to the Wallet app (Image credit: Apple)

Apple also unveiled its own spin on AI, dubbed Apple Intelligence, at WWDC 2024, which looks set to make iOS 18 an even more powerful upgrade for the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max, exclusively. Apple Intelligence will help process and create language and images, take actions on behalf of users across a range of apps, and speed up everyday tasks. 

Apple hasn’t yet shared a concrete release date for iOS 18, though the company typically begins rolling out the latest version of its operating system alongside its new iPhones. The iPhone 16 line will almost certainly debut in September this year, so that’s when we expect iOS 18 to become available to download on compatible iPhone models.

Incidentally, members of Apple's Developer Program can take an early version of iOS 18 for a spin right now. Read our guide on how to download the iOS 18 beta for a rundown of how to do so.

As for which iPhones will be compatible with iOS 18 proper, Apple has confirmed that you'll need an iPhone XS or newer (in other words, any iPhone with an A12 Bionic chipset or newer).

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Axel Metz
Phones Editor

Axel is TechRadar's UK-based Phones Editor, reporting on everything from the latest Apple developments to newest AI breakthroughs as part of the site's Mobile Computing vertical. Having previously written for publications including Esquire and FourFourTwo, Axel is well-versed in the applications of technology beyond the desktop, and his coverage extends from general reporting and analysis to in-depth interviews and opinion.  Axel studied for a degree in English Literature at the University of Warwick before joining TechRadar in 2020, where he then earned an NCTJ qualification as part of the company’s inaugural digital training scheme.